Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! I know I did, it was great to spend time with the family, watch movies, eat great food, and sleep in.
A few days ago, I was flipping through the channels on TV and stumbled upon the Biography channel. I sometimes watch this channel as they have some interesting shows. This time, however, I was particularly interested to watch it because they were playing a Canadian show called “Food Factory”. Sort of like the TV show “Unwrapped” here in U.S usually seen on the Food Network channel, where they show how certain foods are made.
Anyway, let me back track a little. Years ago, when I first started watching cooking shows, the chefs on TV always used to say “Buy a block of cheese and grate it yourself”. I never understood the reason behind that. However, I do know that shredded cheeses cost a lot more. On the flip side, it’s a time saver – if a recipe calls for a cup of shredded cheese, just take a bag of the already shredded cheese and dump it into a bowl, instead of grating it yourself, which would take up precious time, especially if you are in a hurry. Not to mention, if you are not careful, you could grate your fingers. Ouch! Well, until a few years ago, I was using shredded cheeses in all of my recipes, until I heard from multiple sources that shredded cheeses contain stabilizers. Huh? So a few days when I was watching the Biography channel’s “Food Factory” show, they showed how cheese is made. Brace yourself, this might be shocking.
Are you ready? First of all, graded cheese is covered with powdered cellulose (made from cell walls of plants) to prevent the cheese from sticking together. When the shredded cheese is ready to be packaged it is added to the bag along with Nitrogen: N and Carbon dioxide: C02. Carbon dioxide replaces oxygen and prevents the cheese from becoming moldy. Nitrogen helps maintain the shape of the bag. This extends the shelf life of up to 240 days (otherwise the shredded cheese would only last 2-3 weeks before becoming moldy). Let me repeat that again – shelf life of up to 240 days!!!!!!!! That’s 8 Months!!!!!!
Here is a more scientific explanation from a source, “the major component in the rigid cell walls in plants is cellulose. Cellulose is a linear polysaccharide polymer with many glucose monosaccharide units. The acetal linkage is beta which makes it different from starch. This peculiar difference in acetal linkages results in a major difference in digestibility in humans. Humans are unable to digest cellulose because the appropriate enzymes to breakdown the beta acetal linkages are lacking. Even though we cannot digest cellulose, we find many uses for it including: Wood for building; paper products; cotton, linen, and rayon for clothes; nitrocellulose for explosives; cellulose acetate for films” (Elmhurst.edu, 2013). In addition, “Powdered cellulose is minuscule pieces of wood pulp or other plant fibers that coat the cheese and keep it from clumping by blocking out moisture” (The Wall Street Journal, 2013). What??? Pieces of wood pulp in the cheese???? Finally, “cellulose is processed to produce papers and fibres and is chemically modified to yield substances used in the manufacture of such items as plastics, photographic films, and rayon. Other cellulose derivatives are used as adhesives, explosives, thickening agents for foods, and in moisture-proof coatings (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2013).
Are you still with me? That’s only the scoop on cellulose, I won’t even go into nitrogen and carbon dioxide components. Honestly, I prefer my food as natural as possible and if it takes me ten minutes to grate my own cheese, then gosh darn it, that’s how long it will take!!!
Would love to hear your thoughts on this…